Food Notes for May 29, 2023

“Best-of” Lists Give Food Businesses Something to Build On

Being listed as one of Edmonton’s best places to eat brings in customers, but converting that advantage into repeat traffic is the key, say some Edmonton-area eateries.

Edify (previously known as Avenue Edmonton) has been publishing its Best Restaurants list since 2012, and the Top 100 Best Things to Eat or Drink in Edmonton from The Tomato has been around since 2013.

“It’s part of the reputation-building part of the business,” said Jeff Nachtigall, co-owner of Sugared and Spiced, which was named one of Edify’s best bakeries in 2022 and saw its lemon tart reach 52nd on the Tomato’s Top 100 in 2023.

“Edmonton has lots of good bakeries that make good stuff. When people are making a decision, they have it in their head that we’re one of the top ones.”

When the bakery’s peanut butter marshmallow squares made the 2022 list, “sales went up about 12% to 15% over the year compared to the year before,” Nachtigall said.

Being featured on the cover of Edify as 2022’s Best New Restaurant was a boon for Tryst, a St. Albert wine bar that focuses on sharable small plates.

“In March, the floodgates opened,” said co-owner and chef Zach Eaton. “We had an immediate boost in our covers and sales. Our numbers for that month went way up, almost 50% more than the month before.”

Tryst had “pretty good reach in St. Albert,” but Edify helped bring people in from Edmonton, Eaton said. Though sales tapered off the following month, guests continued to refer to Edify into the summer, he added. “It was cool to be featured that year because some people were only starting to go back out after COVID,” he said. “We were the first place they’d been to in two years.”

Eaton recognized it was up to the Tryst team to ensure guests would return following that initial visit. “You have to capitalize on that surge and capture as many people as you can,” he said. “But we’re pretty decent at getting them to come back.”

Goldie Hazrah, proprietor of Monsoon Bistro & Bar, had a similar view. Monsoon’s Tandoori lamb dish placed second on The Tomato’s Top 100 list in 2022, but Hazrah knew it was the overall experience that would lead to repeat customers.

“The Tomato was a gift to us, it did bring quite a few people in,” said Hazrah. “But I always tell my staff — nobody comes for the food. You can go anywhere for food. You want them to feel welcomed because if you don’t give them that personal touch, there’s no point.”Sugared and Spiced

Sugared and Spiced has seen a boost in business from local food lists. (Mack Male/Flickr)

The Tomato first mentioned Monsoon as a notable new restaurant in September 2021, and then again on the Top 100 list the following March. Hazrah observed an immediate change in her customer profile, which was primarily South Asian when the Indian restaurant opened in July 2021.

“After The Tomato write-up, it jumped to the non-Indian community right away, 50% Indian and 50% non-Indian,” said Hazrah. “I go to tables and ask them how they heard about us, and a majority of people said they read it in The Tomato and wanted to come try.”

Sugared and Spiced prominently displays plaques from both magazines on its bakery case. “The signs that they give us to put up in the shop are great for people who have just stumbled upon us,” Nachtigall said. “It gives them confidence when they walk in. Even if they haven’t heard of us, they’ve probably heard of Edify and The Tomato.”

Without the resources for a formal marketing budget, Nachtigall has embraced the opportunity to gain annual recognition for his store, which opened in 2017. “I have a reminder every January to share The Tomato’s nomination form with customers because we don’t want to miss being on the list,” said Nachtigall. “It doesn’t cost us anything, and there is a huge group of regulars that come every week that want to see their favourite item on the list.”

Eaton and Nachtigall both remarked that the validation from the lists may give customers that final push to try out their business. Tryst, for instance, has a link to its Edify honour on the home page of its website. “Someone might go and look at our menu on the website but are still undecided,” said Eaton. “But when they see that we won the best new restaurant in Edify, they’ll decide to check us out.”

Hazrah, who has more than a decade of restaurant experience, has herself relied on The Tomato for recommendations. “I always used to pick up a copy to find out about local stores,” she said. “I like to go to locally owned restaurants. I invested my money into a place and my focus and my heart is in the business. And people feel it. And I feel the same way when I go to local shops.”

Lists open doors and encourage regulars

Hazrah and Eaton noted that their magazine appearances garnered additional attention from fellow chefs and other media outlets. “It does open some doors,” said Eaton. “People reached out to me to do other things. Chefs wanted to collaborate, and a Top Chef recruiter called me.” Eaton has yet to decide if he will appear on the television program.

Lastly, all three people interviewed cited the compounding effect of regular customers, as they help by spreading the word or personally introducing their friends and family to the business.

“I find that older people like to bring their adult children. Even my kids — we take them to places that they will enjoy,” laughed Hazrah.

For Nachtigall, the support from loyal patrons is an emotional one.

“On Mother’s Day, I noticed that regulars were bringing their moms into the shop after having brunch in the neighbourhood, pointing out the best stuff to eat to the person they care about,” said Nachtigall, tearing up at the memory.

“How do you say to someone that a peanut butter square is important to you? But for the people who have a routine and buy a peanut butter square every week, it’s not just that it tastes good. There’s so much more to it. So when it comes to explaining the importance of a product at a bakery, it’s easier when there’s a list. It’s a summary point to help share with other people.”

Disclosure: I was a part of the judging panel for Edify’s Best Restaurants list in 2022.


Upcoming Events

  • The Alberta Avenue Business Improvement Area will be organizing 10 night markets in the neighbourhood, to run on Friday nights this summer. They will feature local vendors and food.

Local News

  • Prestons, the restaurant inside downtown’s Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel, has started offering Sunday brunch buffets from 11am-2pm, with made-to-order crepe and carvery stations, along with more than a dozen other items to choose from. It is priced at $35/person, and requires reservations.
  • Edify checked out the food at Bianco and the newly-relocated May.
  • Zwicksticks from Zwick’s Pretzels are now available at some Superstore locations in the city. They are also introducing two new flavours: chili black pepper and cinnamon sugar.
  • Local writer Twyla Campbell’s forthcoming cookbook, co-authored with Dan Clapson, is available for pre-order. Prairie will be available in stores in August.
  • The Kitchen, Edmonton Public Library’s community kitchen located in Stanley Milner, consistently fills up their cooking classes, both online and in-person.
  • Pending regulatory approval in Alberta, businesses may be able to serve cannabis-infused drinks in the near future.

What I Ate

  • It’s great to have these chilled Fawkes Coffee drinks in our fridge for a convenient pick-me-up. Of the two the latte is my favourite, but the floral notes of the lavender London fog are unique.
  • Fawkes

Fawkes Coffee

  • We were invited to attend the Downtown Spark kick-off party last week, and were treated to some tacos from El Mero Mero (I enjoy their birria tacos). It’s great to see our neighbourhood Alex Decoteau Park so festive again – the event runs until June 4, so make sure to check out the art installations and activities before then!
  • El Mero Mero

El Mero Mero tacos at Decoteau Park

Food Notes for May 22, 2023


  • Feng Donburi is a new Japanese restaurant that opened in Windermere, at 16408 Ellerslie Road SW.
  • Calgary-based Lloyd’s Patty Distro, offering Jamaican patties, will be opening a location in Edmonton at 10534 111 Street.

Upcoming Events

  • There’s still time to check out cat-inspired specials as a part of Edmonton Cat Fest, running from May 20-28. 10 restaurants and food businesses are participating, including PhatBar Bakery’s cat paw cookies and HanJan’s mewngo bingsu. A portion of proceeds from all items will be donated to Cat Fest and local rescue organizations.
  • The next Sari Sari Mercado market, featuring 40+ Filipina/o/x businesses, plus 6 Asian food trucks will be taking place on June 17 and 18.

Local News

What I Ate

  • Freya and I came out of retirement to deliver our first Chinatown walking tour in five years. We reflected on how little has changed in the neighbourhood in that time, unfortunately. After the tour, we accompanied the guests for lunch at 97 Hot Pot. Their lunch menu, featuring a soup base and 6 items, is such a great deal.
  • 97 Hot Pot

My 97 Hot Pot spread

  • We hit up Jack’s Burger Shack to satisfy a craving for their hangover burger on Friday. And Emily will never pass up the chance to indulge in a cinnamon toast crunch milkshake!
  • Jack’s Burger Shack

Our standard Jack’s Burger Shack order

  • While in Old Strathcona, we stopped by the expanded Yelo’d. It was hoppin’, as would be expected on a warm summer day. I liked that we could choose between a light and a dark waffle cone.
  • Yelo’d

ChocNut + Choc Cake ice cream from Yelo’d

  • Our plot at the Alex Decoteau Community Garden is in for the season! Although Ellie was around for our harvest last year, she will actually be able to partake in the produce this summer – we’re looking forward to introducing her to the beauty of sun-warmed tomatoes and strawberries (if Emily is willing to share)!
  • Alex Decoteau Community Garden

Start of garden season!

Food Notes for May 15, 2023


  • Be Coffee is a new coffee shop now open at Century Park (11025 26 Avenue, #1004).
  • Latin American food truck Sabor de Los Andes has opened up a brick and mortar storefront at 10985 127 Street. They celebrated their grand opening on April 28.
  • Northsiders, rejoice! There are relatively few independent food and hospitality openings north of Yellowhead Trail, especially when compared with south Edmonton (and in the last year, in the areas of Windermere and Ellerslie). But Boxcar Coffee Shop is one to celebrate, located in Calder (11926 129 Avenue). They are opening this summer.
  • Ottawa-based Maverick’s Donut Company has opened an Edmonton outpost at 9732 Ellerslie Road SW.
  • Nisku-based Rig Hand Distillery has expanded their location and will be opening a bar, general store, and dining room this spring/summer.

Upcoming Events

  • ByBlacks Restaurant Week 2023 Spring Edition runs May 15-21, 2023. It is “a week-long celebration of delicious food, vibrant culture, and community where you’ll get to experience the rich diversity of Black-Canadian cuisine and highlight the exceptional culinary talent of Black chefs across Canada.” Three Edmonton-area restaurants are participating (who were all also a part of the recent Feed the Soul Dining Week): Flava Cafe, Sauce Modern Caribbean Cuisine, and Travelling Dishes.
  • Phat Bar is hosting a wine and dessert pairing event on May 26. Tickets are $54.58 and include 5 pairings.
  • La Mano, a Calgary-based pasta meal kit service, is hosting a pop-up at Dalla Tavola Zenari on May 28. Tickets for the 7-course dinner are $110 for food only, with wine pairings extra.
  • The Leduc Coffee Shop is coordinating a Taste of Leduc, from June 5-11, 2023. Businesses are not yet confirmed.

Local News

  • There is one week left to order St. Viateur Bagels as a part of the fundraiser for B’Nai Brith Youth Organization. They’re close to 900 dozen so far, but are hoping to reach 1,440 dozen. The deadline to order is May 22.
  • Edify checked out the ramen at Yutaka in Old Strathcona.
  • The Journal profiled Modest Meats, the butcher shop opened by Jeff Senger. It’s curious that the article mentions that “Senger isn’t afraid to name names when talking about commodification, and he’s open about calling out outfits that he feels are masquerading as artisanal butcher shops” but the article fails to print those names.
  • Also from the Journal, they highlight the permanent location of wine bar Darling, and the rebooted Masters of the Foodiverse black box cooking competition.
  • Pei Pei Chei Ow has organized a crowdfunding campaign to cover the money they spent to purchase a new oven. So far, they have raised $3,215 towards their $15,000 goal.
  • Outdoor farmers’ market season is back! Check the Alberta Farmers’ Market Association for a full list, but notably, Callingwood’s Sunday market has begun, and the Thursday 124 Street Grand Market kicked off last week.
  • Congratulations to Hungry Zine who was honoured with the Best New Magazine Award from Alberta Magazines.
  • The Edmonton Food Council is recruiting new members. The application deadline is May 31.

What I Ate

  • We took my mom out for dinner at Padmanadi (she absolutely loves their rendang). As always, their food and hospitality was top notch.


Part of our Padmanadi spread

  • We finally had the chance to visit Sorellina Coffee. Mack used his Coffee Pass, and for the first time at a cafe he has visited on the pass, the entire value of his drink was comped! I also purchased a lemon iced tea, and it was delicious.
  • Sorellina Coffee

Drinks from Sorellina Coffee

  • I had a great Mother’s Day with Mack, Emily, and Elizabeth. We had some relaxing time outdoors, complete with a picnic. Splash Poke really hit the spot, and because we didn’t end up eating it right away, the staff were super accommodating and packed the sauces separately for us.
  • Splash Poke

Splash Poke bowls

Food Notes for May 8, 2023

New Owners of Van Loc Hope to Breathe New Life into Chinatown

The new owners of Van Loc are hoping to reinvigorate not only the long-standing banh mi restaurant but also the area where it has been in business for years.

“We just want Edmonton to recognize Chinatown as a destination,” said Wilson Wong, who bought Van Loc with his best friend William Chen. “Chinatown is a diamond in the rough, but there is a lot of beauty.”

Chen, 35, and Wong, 33, are the sons of parents who arrived in Edmonton in the 1980s as Chinese-Vietnamese refugees. They grew up eating banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich consisting of a baguette with savoury fillings such as meat, pickled carrots, and mayo. They spent a significant amount of time in Chinatown in their youth, and have seen the area’s decline firsthand.

Wong’s dad owned a restaurant in the now-levelled Mirama complex, which stood at Jasper Avenue and 94 Street. Chen’s family ran a noodle shop in Chinatown (his sister is Winnie Chen, the head chef at Fu’s Repair Shop). Chen also volunteered extensively for the Fukienese Association, one of the clan groups that provide a way for immigrants with similar cultural or language backgrounds to connect with one another.

Chen and Wong met at MacEwan University 15 years ago. While working their day jobs in pensions and sales, respectively, they experimented with several business ventures over the years, including selling T-shirts, BB gun pellets, and batteries.

“It’s fun for us,” laughed Wong. “Some people drink, we start businesses together.”

The duo had hoped to open a coffee shop, but the pandemic halted their progress. They decided to see about acquiring an existing brand and learned the owners of Van Loc, who were also Chen’s family friends, were looking to retire after 25 years in business.

“Our emotional ties to Chinatown and our conviction for the community and the math worked out,” said Wong. “I wanted to take my sales experience and really push the narrative in Chinatown for a more youth-oriented way.”

It also presented an opportunity to “show what we can do to revitalize Chinatown without getting involved in anyone’s politics,” Chen added.

Van Loc

William Chen and Wilson Wong of Van Loc

The deal went through in October 2022, and before officially taking over in January 2023, Chen shadowed the original owners to learn their recipes. For the most part, they have maintained the same ingredients and suppliers, but have mechanized how they julienne carrots and tweaked some flavours.

“Our liver pâté is now made of chicken instead of pork,” said Chen. “So it is smoother and less gritty. And our sate beef and sate chicken is more westernized — we put cheese and chili oil.”

Chen is also excited to cook up non-traditional sandwich combinations. “I like to experiment,” he said. “My creative outlet is cooking. I try random things on my banh mi. I’ve made a roast pork banh mi. I’ve tried a shaking beef banh mi using ribeye. And I’m experimenting with a papaya salad banh mi that one of my customers tried in California.”

Chen and Wong have made some changes to how Van Loc runs. It offers customers the option to pay by credit card without an additional fee, one of the few quick-service restaurants in the area doing so. They invested in thicker rock glass so they can keep their street frontage more welcoming and their windows shutter-free. And they are hosting events to draw a younger crowd, such as a car show, paint nights, and Dungeons and Dragons sessions.

“Because we have young people coming, it’s a much safer Chinatown,” said Wong.

That said, it’s been heartening to see return business from the older generation, too.

“The biggest compliment isn’t the new people coming in after seeing us on Instagram, but the aunties and uncles coming back,” said Wong.

The pair have big dreams about what Chinatown can become and hope one day Van Loc will be joined by Chinatown’s first brewery and speakeasy, among other new businesses. But until then, they hope more people come and discover what the neighbourhood has to offer.


  • May will be re-opening in their new location on 124 Street in the former Canteen space on May 12. Find them at 10522 124 Street.
  • While working on their more permanent space in Manulife Place, Ace Coffee Roasters has opened a temporary kiosk in front of it. It is open from 7am-2pm, Monday to Friday.

Upcoming Events

  • The Brick Burger experience is coming to Edmonton in December 2023. $47 tickets include a burger served on a brick-shaped bun in a Lego-themed diner.

Local News

What I Ate

  • I went for an ice cream date with Emily last week. It’s great to have a Kind Ice Cream within walking distance of our place!
  • Kind Ice Cream

Birthday cake ice cream from Kind

  • We watched part of the Oilers game at the Churchill Square watch party on the weekend. It was a great chance to try a new-to-us food truck, El Quetzalito Food Truck.

El Quetzalito Food TruckAl pastor tacos from El Quetzalito

Food Notes for May 1, 2023


  • Darling’s permanent location opened over the weekend, and they offer lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Find them at 9616 82 Avenue.
  • Die Pie’s new location opened last week, at 11817 105 Avenue. Die Pie identifies itself as “Alberta’s first plant-based pizzeria”.
  • Kind Ice Cream’s third location is now open in the OEX II Building (12017 102 Avenue), just east of the OEX Building that houses Culina To Go and Brio.


  • Transcend Coffee announced that they have closed their Garneau location, as “the revenue generated from the Garneau location has not been sufficient to cover the costs of operation.” They will continue operations at their Ritchie cafe.

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • The Rice Howard Place food court will be closing in March 2024 for renovations, and with it, Chicken for Lunch. Make sure to get your fix in before then, Edmonton.
  • Awn Kitchen is the latest business to be transparent about the increase in their menu prices, due to inflation: “on May 1 we will be increasing our pricing slightly to reflect this and ensure we can continue to bring you the same quality and experience that you know.”
  • Happy first birthday to Felice Cafe!
  • Edify checked out The Lunchbox Sandwich Shop and Evario Kitchen & Bar.
  • The Journal covered the forthcoming Karen’s Diner pop-up at the Canadian Brewhouse on 109 Street from May 6-14, where sass can be expected for $55 per person, and Strathcona Spirits’ Chaga Mushrum Rye.
  • Also from the Journal – they interviewed Omar Mouallem about the premiere of his feature-length movie about Burger Baron, The Lebanese Burger Mafia.
  • Feta and Olives in HUB Mall was closed by Alberta Health Services due to health violations.

Beyond Edmonton

  • Bon Appetit took a piece out of Crumbl, the US-based bakery who just opened a location in Edmonton. According to the NY Times, they are the fastest-growing dessert shop in the US, but their product is notoriously bad. Of course, I can imagine the owners are laughing all the way to the bank.

What I Ate

  • We finally had the chance to try Das Brezel Haus in Manchester Square. We loved their location, next to a multi-use trail, which allows them to have an expansive, sunny patio. I wished the pretzel we tried was warm, but it was soft and well-seasoned. I was eyeing their sausage-wrapped pretzel, but we had just had lunch – so, next time!
  • Das Brezel Haus

Plain pretzel from Das Brezel Haus

  • Last weekend, we were #hosted at Prestons, located in the Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel Downtown. We had the chance to try their Prime Rib Sundays, which will be offered on Sunday nights for $35 per person. That price includes 10oz prime rib, 2 vegetables, and 1 chef’s choice potato. We also tried the Yorkshire pudding and heritage salad, and would recommend both. It’s such a great value-oriented meal available downtown, and those looking for some nostalgic comfort food will not be disappointed. Reservations for Prime Rib Sunday are required and have to be made no later than 2pm Saturday.
  • Prestons

Prime rib spread from Prestons

Food Notes for April 24, 2023


  • Baekjeong Korean BBQ House will be opening a second location in Mayfield Common. It’s bucking a trend of nearly all recent openings of additional locations ending up in Windermere.

Upcoming Events

  • The Hotel Macdonald will be hosting a Coronation Breakfast Celebration on May 6 at 4am, for those wanting to indulge during a live viewing. At $49 per person, the menu is a reasonable value considering the quality and service of the Fairmont.
  • The Edmonton premiere of Omar Mouallem’s feature-length movie, the Lebanese Burger Mafia, will take place at NorthwestFest on May 14. General admission is $14.

Local News

  • Congratulations to Great North Cookie Company for winning the Culinary Arts Cookoff, which took place over the weekend. The cookoff is a fundraiser for Highlands School.
  • Global interviewed Edmonton’s newest brewery, Polyrhythm Brewing.
  • Phil’s latest Best Dishes casts a spotlight on The Everyday Food Company in Sherwood Park.
  • Milk and Cookies Bakeshop, since closing its storefront in March, posted an update that some products will be available through Uproot Food Collective, in addition to offering monthly treat box deliveries.
  • I just learned that Not Your Baba’s, Fuge Sausage, and Drift Food Truck have teamed up to offer Local Eats Fundraising, which is a great way to keep those food-related fundraising dollars local.
  • Birddog is among Downtown restaurants that are hoping for a long playoff run.
  • Speaking of the Oilers, Annie Rue Ice Cream has made a Play La Bamba Baby flavour of ice cream (available in pints), with $2 from each pint sold going to the Ben Stelter Fund.
  • Edify has some details about Epic’s (formerly JustCook Kitchens) Whyte Avenue location.
  • Food Bike Tour has released their schedule for the summer, which launches in late May. Most of their bike tours start at $139, and include bites at three stops.
  • Staff at the Terrace Plaza location of Starbucks in Edmonton have voted to join the United Steelworkers union.

What I Ate

  • After an errand on the south side, Mack and I picked up some tacos for the first time from Taco Delhi. I loved their idea of fusion tacos, and found the naan to be particularly great, remaining pliable and chewy even after the travel home. I’d be open to trying other dishes there after this initial experience.
  • Taco Delhi

Butter chicken naan taco from Taco Delhi

  • A friend brought over take-out banh xeo from Co Chin Saigon last week, a dish I’ve been meaning to try for ages. It did not disappoint, crispy and savoury, with a generous amount of pork and shrimp filling. I can’t wait to have it again!
  • Co Chin Saigon

Banh xeo from Co Chin Saigon

  • We took advantage of a sunny weekend to walk over to Little Brick for lunch (we’ve found that the multi-use pathway from the funicular makes it a much easier walk into Riverdale from Downtown). Their expansive, all-season patio is great, and I enjoyed the hot turkey sandwich for the most part (I could have done with a little less cranberry sauce).
  • Little Brick

Hot turkey sandwich from Little Brick

  • A day is always made better with bubble tea! It’s great to have Dagu so close when the craving hits.
  • Dagu

Milk tea from Dagu

Food Notes for April 17, 2023


  • Congratulations to Bodega on the opening of their sixth Edmonton-area location in Ellerslie (916 103A Street SW).
  • Bar Oro’s pop-up on Capital Boulevard is open again while their permanent location continues to undergo renovations. The pop-up is located at 10047 108 Street.
  • The Lunchbox Sandwich Shop opened in March, near Ezio Farone Park. Find them at the Ledgeview Business Centre, 9707 110 Street, #103.
  • Die Pie will be re-opening soon at a new location, 11817 105 Avenue. It is double the size of their previous restaurant.
  • H & W Produce will be opening up their first shop in Sherwood Park later this summer in the former Planet Organic location at Unit 160, 201 Festival Way.


  • Long-standing Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market vendor Gramma Bear’s Home Baking have retired after 35 years.

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • With the Oilers post-season in full swing, Edify’s playoff bar guide might come in handy.
  • I really like Linda’s post about California-inspired eats available in Edmonton given our first round opponent is the LA Kings.
  • Edify checked out the duck wings at The Underground Tap & Grill.
  • Sharon points out some of the restaurants offering their take on Vietnamese street food, including Mai Mai, Da Kao, Chi & Em, and Co Chin Saigon.
  • Tamara Vineberg’s annual Montreal bagel fundraiser is back, with proceeds benefiting the B’Nai Brith Youth Organization. St. Viateur Bagels will be shipped to Edmonton on June 14. They can be ordered for $21.95 per dozen.
  • The Public Food Hub is hosting their first Insight Lab on April 19: “Insight Labs are exclusive, small roundtable tasting sessions connecting brands with food lovers.
    During each session, you will get the first taste of a new product, allowing you to provide valuable feedback to our Makers such as taste, presentation, packaging and positioning.” Advance registration is required.
  • Omar Mouallem talks to CKUA about his feature-length movie, The Lebanese Burger Mafia, which will premiere at Hot Docs in Toronto in May.

Food Notes for April 10, 2023

A Capella Catering Adds Restaurant to its Roster

After more than 30 years in business, A Cappella Catering has added a restaurant to its operations: Prestons, the eatery and lounge inside downtown’s Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel.

A Cappella’s chief operating officer, Kim Mahoney, still sometimes catches herself with how surreal it feels to be running a restaurant. “I look over and my 10-year-old son is sitting at a table doing his math homework,” she laughed. “It’s like something I see in the movies. Is this real?”

Prestons reopened on March 1 after being closed since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Mahoney said the hotel approached the catering company a little more than a year ago about taking on all food services at the facility, including the first-floor restaurant.

“They third-party it because it’s not something they want to do themselves,” said Mahoney. “We catered a few events for them, and we have the experience.”

A Cappella has been offering catering and room service at the nearby Matrix Hotel for nearly a decade, and in 2021, it took over food services at Fort Edmonton Park. But a restaurant wasn’t really in the plan.

“Our founder Todd (Rutter) had run a little café before going into catering, and had no intentions of doing a restaurant again,” said Mahoney. “So the restaurant is not anything A Cappella has done before, but it’s exciting. I see so much potential.”

Prestons is open seven days a week for breakfast and dinner. It was important to Mahoney to ensure the menu reflected the best of what A Cappella could offer. “It’s hard to take a catering menu and turn it into a restaurant,” said Mahoney. “We wanted that ‘A Cappella’ flair and that ‘A Cappella’ touch.”

A popular beet salad on the catering menu inspired the Heritage Salad on the dinner menu, and the top catering seller, the Glory Bowl — made up of layers of rice noodles, protein, and vegetables — appears as the Buddha Bowl.

Items from A Cappella’s food truck, Curbside, also feature prominently, including the mac and cheese and fried chicken. Mahoney found ways to incorporate Curbside’s house-smoked meats onto the menus, too.

“We made use of the Austin brisket and Montreal smoked meat on our breakfast benny and skillet,” said Mahoney. “We’re making the brisket into an entrée as a dinner option. And the smoked meat sandwich is traditional like Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal, that big ball of meat overflowing so that you can hardly wrap your mouth around it.”

It helps to have access to built-in clientele from hotel guests, and Mahoney expects Prestons will be even busier when the Oilers playoff run begins later in April. But she hopes to raise awareness about the restaurant with those who live and work in the area, especially since Prestons had been closed for nearly three years.

“Downtown is saturated with a lot of restaurants,” said Mahoney. “But we noticed that on Sunday and Monday nights not a lot of restaurants are open. We wanted to bring back comfort food and nostalgic dinners.”

Mahoney and her team are in the process of planning their first special event, a Mother’s Day brunch with chef-attended stations. They intend to begin hosting weekly prime rib dinners (complete with Yorkshire pudding and family-style sides) on Sunday nights in mid-May.

“We have high standards for our food and quality,” said Mahoney. “Everything is scratch-made and done in-house. From the muffins to the sauces to the meats. And we pride ourselves on our service.”

Disclosure: My family and I were invited for a complimentary breakfast at Prestons, and were also given a take-and-bake meal.


Upcoming Events

  • The annual Culinary Arts Cook-Off fundraiser returns to Highlands School on April 22, 2023. This year is a “cookie-off” edition, and tastes are sold for a loonie each.

Local News

What I Ate

  • We’re happy to have the Fawkes Coffee and Doughnuts pop-up back on 104 Street! The Captain Crunch donut was calling my name, but the cookie monster flavour ended up being the stand-out for me.
  • Fawkes

Donuts from Fawkes

  • We were fortunate to be #gifted one of A Cappella’s take-and-bake dinner for Easter. The brisket was super tender and was enough for multiple meals for our little family; we’ve purchased several of their turkey and ham take-and-bakes before, so the quantity and quality was no surprise! Thanks again to A Cappella for the gift of time.
  • A Cappella Catering

Our Easter spread from A Cappella

Food Notes for April 3, 2023


Upcoming Events

  • The second annual Filipino Restaurant Month returns April 1-30, 2023. In Edmonton, four restaurants are participating: Filistix, Max’s Restaurant, Cebuchon and BBQ, and Manila Grill.
  • April is also Garlic Fest at Sorrentino’s, with garlic-themed menus, events, and cooking classes.
  • Edmonton Public Library is hosting an event called Milner After Dark on April 15 in support of their early literacy program. The event includes live music and tasty bites served in The Kitchen. Tickets are $35 for general admission.
  • Hungry Zine is popping up at Fu’s Repair Shop on April 16 to celebrate their latest issue, which is all about mall food. Adult tickets run $32.88 and include a choice of meat or vegetarian combos.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

What I Ate

  • Friends of ours brought us some take-out from XO Bistro last week – their vermicelli bowl really hit the spot for me that day.
  • XO Bistro

Grilled chicken and spring roll vermicelli from XO Bistro

  • Last week, we were #hosted by Prestons, the restaurant inside the Coast Edmonton Plaza downtown. They are A Capella Catering’s first foray into a restaurant, and they serve breakfast and dinner. I tried the Great One Skillet, with Montreal smoked meat and roasted vegetables topped with poached eggs, hollandaise. It was very satisfying! Mack enjoyed his meat lovers’ benny (featuring BBQ brisket as well as the same Montreal smoked meat). The atmosphere of the restaurant was much more laid back than other brunch restaurants in the neighbourhood, which for us was a welcome change given we had Elizabeth with us. Thanks again to Prestons for having us!
  • Prestons

Great One Skillet from Prestons

  • We walked over to Chinatown on the weekend and picked up some banh mi from Van Loc. The restaurant re-opened with new ownership earlier this year, and feels like a breath of fresh air in the area. The sandwiches were huge, and were packed with meat!
  • Van Loc

Assorted banh mi from Van Loc

Food Notes for March 27, 2023



  • I was so sad to learn that A Bite of Brazil is permanently closing. It was a favourite stop of ours for their addictive cheese bread. Their last day is March 29, 2023.
  • Violet Chocolate Company also announced their closure. They do not yet have a set date. They launched a Nostalgia Collection featuring their favourite flavours.

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What I Ate

We took our annual staycation at Prairie Creek Inn last week, so I took a week off from the blog.

  • Before we left, we took advantage of several Downtown Dining Week deals. Mack and I stole away for lunch at Continental Treat. It was our first time at the restaurant, and the special enabled us to try their famous dill pickle soup. It is definitely worth a try, alongside their excellent potato salad.
  • Continental Treat

Schnitzel from Continental Treat

  • We also ordered take-out from BaoBao, Dagu, and Tiffin – given my parents are still avoiding dining indoors, it was great for these restaurants to honour the deals for take-away.
  • Downtown Dining Week

Takeaway from BaoBao, Dagu, and Tiffin

  • As noted above, we were big fans of A Bite of Brazil’s cheese bread. While the bread will still be available at Pampa, it really isn’t the same as being able to grab some warm bread to enjoy alongside some coffee. We made sure to stock up.
  • A Bite of Brazil

A Bite of Brazil freezer stores

Kasey Ramen tonkotsu

  • Breakfasts at Prairie Creek are always epic, as Emily can attest. We enjoyed feasting on hot breakfasts every morning during our stay.
  • Prairie Creek Inn

Emily with one of our many Prairie Creek breakfasts